Monday, September 29, 2014

I Will Do My Part...

We have had a wonderful week in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission.

October 1 is a big transfer day for us so I have been spending some time looking at the transfer board. This isn't your father's mission president's transfer board -- it's all on-line now.  I can move people around and try different scenarios.

The only thing I can't do with it that would be helpful is to look ahead for multiple transfers using the different scenarios.  I was never really very good at chess and looking ahead several moves is a struggle.  Thankfully, the inspiration comes and the missionaries end up where they should.

We were joined by another lone missionary this week.  Elder Havea is from Tonga and for some unexplained reason received his training in the New Zealand Missionary Training Center instead of the one here in Ghana.  He had traveled two days to get here so he was pretty beat when he arrived.

We gave him some dinner and put him to bed.  The next morning, his Trainer, Elder Jensen, joined us and we gave them both some instruction and sent them out into the world.

 One day this week (I can't remember which), I was at the eye doctor with Elder Iwuchukwu and Elder Iwuji.  The power was off, so we had to wait around and hope that the lights would come back.

While we were waiting, Elder Bannerman and I went downstairs to a store so he could get some water.  A man walked by me with the book, "True To The Faith" in his hands.  That's an LDS book and he didn't even give me a nod.  So, I chased after him and asked how he liked the book.  He said he liked it very very much.  A friend at work had given it to him and he was "tasting" our Church. We happened to be standing across the street from the stake center, so I invited him to come on Sunday and he gave Elder Bannerman his number so the missionaries could call him. It is so great to see the members of the Church actively involved in sharing the Gospel with their friends.

We finally got Elder Iwuchukwu's eye test done, but when they strapped Elder Iwuji in, the machine broke! I don't think Elder Iwuji is ever going to get his glasses.

On Friday, we had the orientation meeting for our Trainers who will be companions to next week's new missionaries.

On Saturday morning, we traveled to Takoradi for Priesthood Leadership Training for five of our mission branches.  We had a nice turnout.  All of the leaders had to travel by Tro Tro -- some over very bumpy roads.  I am grateful for their dedication.  We sang Rise Up O Men of God!  Brother Acquah, our Mission Clerk instructed on the use of the tools available on the Member Leadership Services software to support the progress of the members of the Church.  Elder Julander spoke on effective goals and I taught about rescuing the lost -- using the principles taught in the parables of Luke 15.  It was a nice meeting.  Since they had all traveled to get there, we fed them lunch and sent them on their way.

Waiting for the rest of the tros to arrive.

After the meeting, Elder Julander and I collected our companions and headed to Axim for their annual Branch Conference.  Since we would need to stay overnight, we had the tough duty of staying at the Axim Beach Resort.  It is a beautiful property and only US$80 per room.  Sister Stevenson and Sister Julander got a walk in on the beach while Elder Julander and I visited members and missionaries in preparation for the conference on Sunday.

It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

After the visits, we enjoyed a nice dinner at the resort.  

This wasn't even date night!

Sister Stevenson's snapper.

President Stevenson's lobster kabobs (there was a sauce for the rice on the side).

Sunday morning, the chapel at Axim was filled to capacity.  I was very pleased with the turnout.  Elder Quaisie, a full-time missionary is the branch president.  He is a great young man and is having the same experiences a bishop would have in a ward.  Thankfully, he is very spiritually mature.

President Quaisie

We came to Axim with the news that the Church had purchased a large piece of land overlooking the city and the ocean.  Our message was, "With great blessings come great responsibility."  It was time for the Axim Branch to rise up and shine.  President Quaisie and I spoke in Sacrament Meeting and Elder Allen sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives".  Elder and Sister Julander taught a class on Successful Marriage to all the adults in Sunday School.  I taught the youth "The Doctrine of Christ" using the imagery of Lehi's Dream (for our friends who are not yet members of the Church, crack open a copy of the Book of Mormon and read the first 14 chapters of the Book of Nephi plus chapter 31) and Sister Stevenson taught the Primary Children.

During the third hour, we gathered everyone together in the chapel and I briefly reviewed with them the story of the People of Ammon from the Book of Mormon (Alma 17-28), specifically how as a token of the covenant that they made with the Lord to always be faithful, they buried their weapons of war deep in the earth.  More importantly, "they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren."  We handed each of them a slip of paper that said, "I will do my part to build the Kingdom of God in Axim." and invited them to come with us to the new property, where we would bury the weapons of our rebellion deep in the earth.

After several crowed tro rides in the pouring rain, we had everyone gathered again.

The existing building will be torn down and a new chapel built in its place.

After a short dedicatory prayer, the members filed past a hole we had dug in the ground and threw in their slips of paper to show their commitment to strengthening one another.  Axim is large enough that it will someday be the home to a Stake of Zion.  We tried very hard to plant that vision today.

We were all soaked, but very happy.

Here you go Axim Moms:

We don't normally wear jackets here.  In fact, the newer missionaries are not required to even bring one.  They sure look sharp though

The ride home was bumpy and satisfying (although not without incident for some).

The Real Date Night:

We were going to take home pizza from Cheez, but Sister Stevenson saw that they had talapia and rice, so we doubled down.

We both ate with our fingers.

Creatures of the Week:

The guardians of the Axim Resort Restaurant ---

The little guy lost his tail so he stayed in "Park" most of the time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Adjusting To Missionary Life

This week I got a little teary because our youngest son, Evans, started his first semester at BYU-Idaho.  I was listening to some music and the violin arrangement that he used to play of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" came on.  Sister Stevenson flew into action and handed me a copy of the resource booklet, "Adjusting To Missionary Life" and told me to do one of the homesick exercises. She was right and I felt better before long.  I am grateful that Breanne and Jacob were able to stand in for us and get him settled in.  Having Evans stay with them for the summer really put our minds at ease.

He has had a great first week and likes his roommates, apartment, ward and classes.

On Monday, we needed to have Elder Uwuji see an eye doctor, but when we got to the clinic, they told us the lights were out ("the power is off").  They said they would call us when the lights came back on.  So Elders Uwuji and Bannerman tagged along with us while we did our food shopping for the week.  After we were done, the lights were still off at the clinic, so we tried another place.  It turned out to be much better anyway, but the missionaries ended up spending most of their preparation day with us.  So, we brought them to the mission home, fed them some lunch and let them use our computers to write their families.  They particularly thought it was ironic that they were writing their weekly letter to me while I was in the same room with them.

Elder Bannerman (left) was fun to watch while we were at the eye clinic.  He ended up teaching almost a full discussion to one of the workers there while he waited for his companion.

On Tuesday, I went out to Asebu to meet with the Abakrampa missionaries and some members of the Church that live out there.  They would like to form a unit of the Church there since it is difficult for the members to travel to Abakrampa on Sundays.

Elder Hardy and Elder Tobler were together because their companions were renewing their non-citizen identification cards that day.

The members had arranged for the Church to meet in a local elementary school on Sundays.

It is a tough call because you don't want the Church or the missionaries spread too thinly.  We'll have to see.

This is the missionary apartment in Abakrampa.  It's pretty nice.  It even has a garden.

On Wednesday, we received a new missionary.  Elder Kabu is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and has been in the Ghana MTC for six weeks learning English.

Elder Kabu's trainer is Elder Ble, who is from the Ivory Coast and also speaks French.  I felt like Elder Kabu would settle in better if he could speak a little French from time to time.

Of course, you can't just plug in one new missionary without causing a chain reaction.  These are the Elders who were transferred.  You may recognize Elder Twum on the left end from a prior posting.  He is waiting for his mission call and is so happy to serve with the full time missionaries whenever we have an odd number.  We are sending him home for two weeks, then we will bring him on again on October 1, when our numbers change.  He is a great young man.

On Friday, we received news that one of our missionaries who is serving from Liberia lost two sisters to Ebola earlier in the week.  One of the sisters was the only other member of the Church in his family.  His parents and other family members are currently in quarantine.  When I notified the Area Office of his loss, I was pleased with the compassion and attention with which they responded.  The local branch president in Liberia was immediately sent out to find the family and administer to their needs.  Sister Stevenson and I visited this wonderful missionary I was able to give him a blessing. The entire mission fasted this weekend for the welfare of his family.

On Saturday, I drove to Winneba in the morning to help teach at a stake training session.  A few of the missionaries had arrived early and were shooting baskets.  Elder Egbert said that if I could sink my first three-pointer, he would walk back to his area at the end of the meeting.  I told him he better get his walking shoes on.

Sadly, I disgraced myself and Elder Egbert rode home in the relative comfort of a Tro Tro.


The Stake President wanted to teach effective goal setting to his ward councils.  I was asked to train on the importance of full-time missionaries and ward leaders working together in unity.  Near the conclusion of the meeting, the stake president had all of the ward councils gather together with their missionaries and begin to set unified goals for the remainder of 2014 and for 2015.    

Moms:  If your missionary is serving in the Winneba Stake, you will probably find them in one of these pictures.

A selfie with President Afedzi-Hayford, the Winneba Stake President.

On Sunday, Sister Stevenson and I attended the worship services of the Abura Second Ward, where I had been asked to speak.  Of course, I shared some of my time with Sister Stevenson.  The deal I had with her to use my influence to help her avoid public speaking ended when we became full-time missionaries and she has given some very wonderful messages.

Later, we attended the Sacrament Meeting of the Abura First Ward and enjoyed witnessing the confirmation of ten new members of the Church.  It was awesome and took a good chunk of the meeting time.  I would love to see that each week.  Seven of the new members were converts taught by Sister Aidoo and Sister Ravudra.

I got to interview the young man in the back with the bow tie.  As they say here, he was powerful!

This is the ward that Theresa attends and I was able to finally get a picture of a mother with her baby bundled on the back.  They just wrap them up in a cloth and the kids are happy as can be.  It is one of the two most amazing things about African women (to me anyway).  The other is how they carry heavy burdens on their heads with complete poise.  I was in a discussion once near the neighborhood water tap and a young girl came to fill up her bucket with water.  It was so heavy that she could not lift it up.  She shot me a glance and I ran over and helped her put it on her head.  She then walked away as if it was nothing.  Amazing.

Later on Sunday afternoon, I taught a discussion with Elder Judy and Elder Moleme.  I had met a young man who works at my favorite gas station (it is my favorite because the little store attached to it sells butter and cheese -- rare and wonderful commodities in Cape Coast).  Anyway, he saw my name badge and I asked him if he knew about the Church.  He said no, so I gave him a pamphlet with my number on it and asked him to read it and then call me.  He called later that evening and agreed to meet with the missionaries.  He is 20 and he brought his 17 year old brother along.  Both sharp young men.

 Elder Judy and Elder Moleme

We taught them at an elementary school near where they live.  Since it was a Sunday afternoon, the school was empty and we found an open room (most schools here are not much more than walls with glass-less windows and a roof.  I thought, "Finally, a discussion in peace and quiet!"  But, alas, no sooner had we finished the opening prayer, but a large group of children began playing soccer just outside the room we were in.  So, we had to turn on the Ghana filters and managed to have a very nice discussion.  The boys agreed to begin reading the Book of Mormon and continue meeting with the missionaries.  They even called me later in the evening and thanked us for coming to see them.

This week, we welcomed two new senior couples to the mission.  Elder and Sister Seader are Humanitarian Missionaries who will be based in Cape Coast.  In their assignment, they do not report directly to me, but they are a part of the mission and we are very glad to welcome them. (Unfortunately, I didn't get them in a picture from the dinner we had together on Sunday evening with the most of our other senior couples -- next time.)

We also welcomed the Hanlons, who will serve as Member/Leader Support in Praso.  They are very eager and have experience living in several different countries.  We will enjoy serving with them for the next two years.

Dinner with the Hanlons, Miles and Julanders (DATE NIGHT).

Elder and Sister Ivie will spend a couple of days in Praso with the Hanlons to show them around and get them started.

This will be their home for the next two years.


Our creatures are not inspiring fear and awe.  That's OK with me.